Saturday, October 22, 2005

Domains 'R Us

(I had to rename this post because it messed up my right page column.)

This is history in the making, and I had to find time to comment on it.

You're not going to believe this, but I actually agree with Bushco about something (and Norm fortune for "the accidental senator" from Minnesota that he's on the right side of an issue, I think, and still managing to pose effectively as someone who actually cares about working families). They argue that other countries want more control over the Internet for purposes of censorship, and - gulp - I think they're right.

I'm tired of watching ownership of technology created in this country shipped overseas in order to make a cheap buck. I haven't heard a good argument yet for making ICANN (identified in the CNN story) relinquish control of the system of IP numbers and domain names (also identified in story). Also, I think it's a bit of a tipoff that Iran is one of the countries complaining about the present setup.

However, I should point out that I once defended New York Times reporter Judith Miller, so I can definitely come around to another point of view if someone makes a convincing case for it.

Update 10/24: On the subject of Coleman, he obviously is still going after George Galloway regarding the "oil for food" scandal. I have some questions about this: first, Galloway's defense is that he "never saw any oil." It doesn't matter if he saw the oil; what matters is the money. Also, apparently, now Tauriq Aziz (formerly a flunkie for Saddam Hussein) is supposed to be "a good guy?" It sounds like Coleman's whole case is based on Aziz's heresay. Unbelievable!

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Word From Our Sponsor

(...who, aside from Blogger, would be me:-)

Because of an unusually high degree of nutsiness at the moment, I have no idea whether or not I'll be able to post over the next five days or so, or how often even if I can. I don't want to fall behind on the "Real Time" Update, so that will be a priority. As for everything else, I'm not sure. I'll do my best.

Also, it's hard for me to figure out at times how many comments are auto generated versus how many are from actual humans, but I appreciate everything (even that guy in Alaska who flipped out the time I put up a DNC mailing over the war in Iraq). I am particularly grateful to the people who say they'll bookmark the site and come back. Also, for anyone who asks, "Can I tell a friend about this site or add you to my blogroll?," the answer, always, is an unconditional YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES!!!!!

I'm sure you're aware of the wonderful sites listed under "What Doomsy Reads." If not, please give them a try if it turns out that I'm absent for a time.

Thanks for everything.

Miracles Do Happen

Twenty five years ago today, the Philadelphia Phillies became the world champions of baseball. For anyone who lives in this area, or lived here at that time, it was a moment of sheer and utter joy in the world of sports that, as far as I'm concerned, has never been equaled.

There have been other sports championships in this area, and they were all terrific in their way - the two Stanley Cups the Flyers won in the mid 70s were deliriously happy moments - but the win by the Phillies was special, partly because it had been so tantalizingly close for so long, and also because the Phillies fielded so many bad baseball teams for so many years that a championship from the franchise seemed like a totally unattainable proposition.

But as I rode the Market-Frankford elevated train (commonly referred to as "The El") from my non-paying internship at a Center City Philadelphia high school every day during the summer of 1980 and read about the exploits of our baseball team each day in The Daily News (a good paper then as now), I honestly had a feeling this year would be different. It seemed like every day, manager Dallas Green, shortstop and future manager Larry Bowa, all-star third baseman Mike Schmidt and left fielder Greg Luzinski and others would be feuding. In a sense, it was like the Medicis had been turned into a baseball team wearing white and red pinstripes. I took that to mean that they finally cared so much about winning that they were willing to fight for it.

As great as the World Series win was, though, the victory over the Houston Astros in the National League Championship series was unbelievable also in its way, including coming back from a four-run deficit against Nolan Ryan in the deciding game. There were so many unbelievable moments...Del Unser's pinch hitting, Manny Trillo's laser-like relay throw from second base to nail Terry Puhl as he tried to score from first on a double, and of course, the final out by centerfielder Garry Maddox to seal the deal.

The Kansas City Royals, the team the Phillies faced in the world series, were unbelievable as well. Their pitching, led by ace Dennis Leonard and reliever Mark Quisenberry, was probably the best staff they've ever had. George Brett, of course, played third base, every bit of a parallel to Schmidt in many ways. Willie Wilson, their centerfielder, was a truly gifted athlete who was outstanding in every phase of the game. And their first baseman, Willie Aikens, hit some of the most monstrous home runs that series that I'd ever seen (standing to watch all of them for a second or two at home plate before he started to trot them out, which the Phillies remembered and would use to get back at the Royals later).

The series went back and forth for the first four games (by the way, in this link, I think they kind of mixed Games 4 and 5 together somewhat), but in the fifth game, Kansas City took the lead in their ballpark, and then Dickie Noles of the Phillies threw the knockdown pitch to Brett after one of Aikens' home runs, causing a big argument between Pete Rose (who I will always have a soft spot for, by the way; hands down, he should be in the Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player) and Kansas City manager Jim Frey. And I don't care what anyone says; as great as the Royals were, they were never the same after that happened.

In the final inning of the final game of the series at Veterans Stadium, I remember that Tug McGraw walked the bases loaded - again - with the Phillies nursing a slim lead, and Jose Cardenal, who had played for the Phillies, came to bat. McGraw had held him in check the whole series, and I thought this would be the payback moment to force Game 7, but then he hit the foul popup that Bob Boone caught and then dropped, but Rose caught it in mid air. When that miraculous play happened, somehow I knew the Phillies would pull it off. Soon after that, McGraw struck out Willie Wilson (the reaction shot is shown above) and the Phillies were champions.

It was rumored later that several Kansas City players, including Wilson, were using drugs during the series, which is a shame if true. It didn't appear that way based on how they were playing, though. Also, I'm glad that Kansas City won their own World Series championship in 1985. They were a great team for a few years, and they deserved it.

As for this year's series, I'd like to see the Chicago White Sox pull it off. I give Houston credit also for getting there for the first time, but I don't want to see a team from Texas win a championship in any sport.

Wanker Of The Day

Andrew Cassel of the Inquirer gets the award (a nod of respect to Atrios for stealing his category name).

In his column today, Cassel tries to make the case for repealing the home interest mortgage deduction (can't find a link yet - thanks, Inky!). He first quotes people who know infinitely more on this than he does, including a man named Alan Harris in Bucks County, who is a CPA:

"I don't know where in the world the advisory panel lives in (referring to the Bushco bunch that said this is a good idea), but where I live...they would bury the middle class. We would have foreclosures galore!"
Well said, Mr. Harris.

Cassel twists information with his supposition in ridiculous fashion, including this example.

"Most Americans get little or no government help paying for their houses, outside of programs such as Section 8 for the very poor. But those with incomes above six figures receive tax benefits that can average $7,000 to $8,000 a year."
He also quotes some bunch of idiots in Washington called the Tax Policy Center (why is it that organizations where people such as these belong are ironically called "think tanks"?) that states "eighty two percent of the tax savings from deductible mortgage interest goes to people on the top fifth of the income ladder."

OK, enough. Here are some facts.

We don't make six figures combined in this household, and we certainly aren't on "the top fifth of the income ladder," and last year, we declared about 10 grand in mortgage interest and home equity-related deductions on our tax return. We've whittled that down a bit, but that's still a hell of a lot more than what these "experts" are talking about.

I called Fitzpatrick, Specter and Santorum and told them to keep their hands off the home mortgage interest deduction. Period.

Alan Harris is right. Mess around with this, and anyone "on the bubble" goes belly up. And I can't account for what would follow in that awful event.

Update 10/23: I still can't find a link to Cassel's column, though the link for the column he wrote today appears on the site. What's the matter; is the Inquirer afraid to admit it when one of their esteemed Ivy League journos writes a piece of refuse?

Just Shoot Me (Or Maybe Not)

This link takes you to a news release from IMET Corporation based in nearby Newtown, Pa., which, as noted in the release, is developing “smart gun” technology. As nearly as I can figure out from skimming through their information, their product works in this manner; the owner of the gun grips and readies it, and the “smart lock” allows the gun to function if the fingerprints match that of the owner.

There’s a lot more to it than that, apparently, but it is definitely a leap forward. The owner of the company said that, if Officer Brian Gregg had this technology in his gun, the suspect he held in custody a couple of weeks ago at nearby St. Mary’s Hospital would not have been able to disarm him and kill him with his own weapon (any murder, particularly that of a police officer, is a tragedy, but Officer’s Gregg’s death was particularly wrenching to the community).

OK, now suppose this technology is implemented on most handguns that are sold in this country one day, but unfortunately, IMET Corporation goes out of business (though I definitely don’t wish that on them). You own a handgun in your home that you have registered and you are a law-abiding citizen who practices gun safety. You are sleeping one night and someone breaks into your home. You have accidentally left your gun in an area where it is visible (a big “if,” I know). The intruder sees the gun, picks it up and robs you at gunpoint. There is a scuffle, the IMET technology fails, and the intruder shoots you. You die (yes, I know I’m being fatalistic, but are you going to tell me this could never happen?).

As the investigation proceeds, it turns out that the gun maker did not properly integrate the “smart” technology into the weapon you owned somehow (there was some mechanical incompatibility that was not properly tested and the public wasn’t notified). Can you sue the gun maker over it?

No, and here is the reason why (no other product in this country has this kind of liability protection, and this is one of the most dangerous products you can own). There’s no sense in even trying to contact Dubya and get him to veto this (my apologies to the great people at The Brady Campaign), because he can’t wait to scribble on the dotted line.

These are dark days in many ways, and my sincerest hope is that we all remain safe and vigilant to get through them, teach our kids about them, and take all precautions to make sure that we NEVER have to endure them again.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Betraying Our Kids

I was spurred onto the topic of families based on this story that appeared in the New York Times a few days ago (from The Huffington Post). I have to admit that I’ve been trying to finish this post for a few days, and I’m going to try to do it again now.

It would be easy for me to crow and state that the Times story is further evidence that many red staters in general are nothing but a bunch of provincial, uneducated misanthropes with a gene pool hopelessly polluted with their own DNA, a passing familiarity with conjugal discretion beyond the age of about 14, and a blind allegiance to any Republican politician who isn’t actually robbing them at gunpoint.

But it would be wrong for me to say that, so I won’t (besides, I was almost run off the road today by an idiot with a New York license plate driving a black Hummer…blue staters obviously aren’t perfect either).

Seriously, no one has the moral high ground in this area. We all face the same struggle to protect our kids and raise them as best as we can.

Well, since the Times story does deal with this whole “red state/blue state” schism that we may be destined to live with for quite awhile yet, I instinctively thought of the one person who benefited most from this division, and that would be none other than President Stupid Head himself.

I went back and checked to see how Dubya sold himself as “the moral values president” last year when running against John Kerry, and as I read this exercise in “buzzword bingo” from his campaign literature, I find it more and more unbelievable that he was actually returned to office (again, as always, discounting the likelihood of fraud in Ohio and Florida…apparently, J.D. Mullane wrote some column today in the Courier Times with a headline that wondered if last year’s election was stolen, but I didn’t read a word of it on purpose).

Here were Candidate Bush’s positions, as it were, last year:

George W. Bush on Families and Abstinence


- Defend the institution of marriage against activist judges. (Jan 2004)
- New relief plans focus on the American family. (Aug 2003)
- Tax cut plan helps single people as well as families. (Nov 2000)
- Internet filters, ratings, & parental monitoring for kids. (Oct 2000)
- Paying taxes hurts family time for middle class. (Sep 2000)
- Blueprint: Focus on community; adoption; fatherhood; safety. (Sep 2000)
- Safety at school & home: Project Sentry & Project ChildSafe. (Sep 2000)
- Teach our children the values that defeat violence. (Aug 2000)
- Fathers’ registry will promote involvement, responsibility. (Jul 2000)
- $75M to support veterans to mentor youth. (Jul 2000)
- $2.3 billion over 5 years for adoption & child welfare. (Jul 2000)
- Parental accountability is more important than trigger locks. (Mar 2000)
- Leave no child behind, via improving schools & health care. (Jan 2000)
- More daycare funds; caseworkers; “Second Chance” homes. (Jun 1999)
- V-chip OK, but cultural changes are better. (May 1999)
Filter - or avoid - media that romanticizes violence. (Apr 1999)
Enforce child protection and child support. (Jan 1999)


- Double funding for abstinence to prevent STDs. (Jan 2004)
- Promote abstinence in schools and via churches. (Apr 2000)
- Abstinence Ed should get funded as much as Sex Ed. (Jun 1999)
- Appropriate to draw a moral line for children. (Jun 1999)
- Teach kids right (abstinence) and wrong (drugs & gangs). (Apr 1998)
The “2.3 billion for adoption and child welfare” was little more than an exercise in dark humor as far as I’m concerned, seeing as how we burn through that in Iraq in about half a day. The rest of it is a typical “bait and switch” exercise of P.R. and empty promises (and yes, abstinence is a good thing, but not at the expense of educating our kids about birth control just in case).

Ah, but “the dear leader” does give us something for the kids (and click here to find out what it is).

Isn’t that cute? It’s a Presidential Prayer web site! Praise God and all the standard Repug luminaries (and President Reagan returns from the dead to preach to us about “character” in people who eat jellybeans). As you can see, there are a lot of primary colors, smiling faces, and cutesy profiles of John Snow while he’s busy raiding our defined contribution 401(k) plans and Gale Norton as she’s granting approval to allow strip mining for coal at Mount Zion (just kidding…I hope; sorry, I forgot – Snow and Norton were in last week’s issue).

Believe me when I tell you that way up on my “To Do” list is a task called “Write to Specter and Fitzpatrick and tell them I don’t want ONE DIME of my tax dollars being used to pay for this stuff” (and I’m not even going to waste my time with Scumbag Santorum – this site could have been his idea).

Of course I believe in God and I think religion is a good thing. I would feel insulted if someone asked me that personally. But this administration simply doesn’t get the concept (or refuses to acknowledge same) that SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THIS COUNTRY EXISTS.

Well, at least we can turn to Public Television for programming that is reasonably unfiltered by Bushco (or at least we could, anyway).

So, here again then is Molly Ivins to explain the true net effect of Bushco’s treatment of our kids (and yes, I know her column is dated from last February, but if you can prove to me that anything has seriously changed since then, I'll remove this entire paragraph and note it accordingly).

If you by any chance live in a red state and know a teenage girl out there who could benefit from some of this information (or even a blue state – when it comes to public health issues, the “color” of the state is irrelevant), please persuade them to read some of this before they become a statistic. All “smoke and mirrors” aside, we know what this administration thinks of families (really, anyone who isn’t just like them). It’s up to us to educate ourselves on this stuff, since we obviously can’t count on this government to do it.

Update 10/21: Here is more on this from a recognized expert in the field:-).

Update 10/24: Speaking of kids (and a certain book/movie/stage play), pay no attention to the clueless moron in the motorcade...

Be Gone, Fog, Be Gone!

I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued a bit yesterday when I read the remarks of The Florida Masochist regarding the Valerie Plame matter (and again, James Moore’s entry today on that at The Huffington Post and The Smirking Chimp is the best analysis I’ve read to date). It was similar to the sensation I recall from watching a horror movie to find out how many times the soon-to-be-victim would do something truly dumb, like continuing to wash clothes or paint a fence while whistling and leaving the cottage gate unlocked while Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man or The Mummy lurked nearby, as the threatening music built to a crescendo and the shadows grew longer (the old Universal Studios monster movies were always on in my house growing up, and you can read into that however you want).

Since the country is in such wonderful shape (ahem…), I thought I would journey further into Wingnuttia to find out how some of the big-hit propagandists are faring these days as they thoroughly analyze the critical issues facing our republic (I made sure to take an antacid to coat my stomach first to try and prevent fits of nausea).

This is what I found instead…

- The site of the American Enterprise Institute has a link to an article about “The Future Of The U.N.,” from that well-known consensus builder, voice of moderation and author of the “Contract on America” himself, Newt Gingrich. He provided Senate testimony regarding U.N. “reform” (I’m beginning to think that no politician should ever be allowed to use that word again), which would entail abolishing the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Golly, why didn’t I think of that…

- The National Review’s “On The Corner” page has more Reagan nostalgia from that paragon of journalistic integrity, none other than Rush Limbaugh. The site also contains a diatribe against “pushy” women reporters from someone named Kathryn Jean Lopez (interesting to see that Bushco’s PR job on the Harriet Miers nomination is still falling flat among the faithful, by the way, which is commented on at this site).

- Instapundit was railing today against what appears to be a defeat in the Senate of an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (that automatically makes me suspicious) to a previous legislative appropriation. Here is the purpose of the amendment (from the “Power Line” blog, which must be a big deal with the neo-con crowd):

The amendment is very simple: it proposes to redirect the ridiculous $220 million earmarked for the Alaskan "bridge to nowhere" to Hurricane Katrina relief; specifically, reconstruction of the Twin Spans Bridge that connects New Orleans with Slidell, Louisiana.
(And by the way, whenever someone says something is very simple, it usually isn't.)

Power Line uses typically understated rhetoric to describe the battle for the amendment, referring to whole episode as “a hill to die on.” With that in mind, I should point out that people I know who have served in the military, including family members, have been usually very judicious in my experience, taking care not to throw around such language for no good reason.

Also, since the amendment represents a fight among Repugs (Stevens and Murkowski both being from Alaska), does this represent another “divide and conquer” moment among the “falling out of favor” party?

Update 10/23: Can I hold the door for you, Sen. Stevens, you bleeping egomaniac?

- Tune into Little Green Footballs today for All Terrorism, All al Qaeda, All Palestinians All The Time (the online version of “The Two Minutes Hate” I guess). They post an article from Reuters about Dubya meeting with Mahmoud Abbas today, so that’s something timely they have the right to comment on, but I’m not entirely sure why they took a shot at the Reuters news agency (though what is a Repug without someone to snarl at, I suppose?). Still, I have to admit that the site has a nice layout.

Well, this was all I could tolerate for one sitting, so I said enough (the title of this post describes one of my reactions).

By the way, I definitely understand the distinction between these four sites and have for some time. Instapundit and Little Green Footballs pretend to present something in the way of serious news analysis, The National Review site has some of that but mainly contents itself with presenting scholarly-sounding verbosity to keep the faithful properly anesthetized, and the American Enterprise Institute site is the location for this week’s gaggle of preferred Repug “shouting” points (I don’t refer to them as “talking points” since these individuals are never really interested in a discussion about anything that deviates from their agenda).

In search of a dose of propaganda-free reporting, I came across the latest from Molly Ivins and was properly sated. This was all intended to lead into the link to her column anyway, so I guess it was a bit of overkill to review these other areas of “the dark side.” Still, though, this is a necessary exercise from time to time, since it will help us to recognize the face of the enemy when we see it.

Update 10/21: This item is part of the continuing effort by the Repugs and their media accomplices to prop up Dubya (tied a bit to the Reagan/jellybean reference in the "Betraying Our Kids" post). Also, I have a message for Ahh-nold; as I said before, I once did a Google search for "George W. Bush" and "Bait and Switch" and came back with 96,500 hits. There's a message there.

Wildlife Grazing Amidst 10W40

Sen. Pete Domenici should earn a special place in hell for this.

For additional context into this atrocity, here is more from David Muhly, the regional representative of the Sierra Club in Bland, Va. (from the old site, dated last April).

Conservative evangelicals recently sent a letter to President Bush that said, "Protection of the global climate is an essential requirement for faithful human stewardship of God's creation on Earth." The National Council of Churches, which represents more than 100,000 congregations nationwide, has begun to describe stewardship of the Earth as a critical "moral value."

Thirty-five years ago, the first Earth Day was celebrated, on the date after the birthday of legendary conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir. The timing was no coincidence. After all, Muir was the prototypical environmentalist, having translated his love for the Sierra Nevada into efforts to protect natural areas throughout the West.

Today, the whole idea of there being a single model for environmentalism itself deserves some questioning. These days, the most compelling voices for environmental stewardship are as likely to be a minister, a hunter, a nurse, or a factory line worker.

In an increasingly polarized nation, environmental issues may be a natural way to unite groups across the political spectrum. Recent trends both at the national level and in our own backyard underscore this opportunity.

It's not just religious groups. Hunters and anglers are the most vocal proponents of wetlands protection, and they represent a formidable obstacle to anyone proposing to weaken existing protections. Working families have also taken up the environment as a cause; they know better than anyone that developing clean energy technologies will create good jobs. And Latino and African American families continue to be on the front lines battling air and other pollution that disproportionately affects their communities.

The truth that environmental politics can unify supposedly separate constituencies is as true in the Appalachians as it is anywhere. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates this trend than the fight to protect our wild forest areas, roadless areas, on our own national forests here in the Southeast. But it's not just a question of protecting wildlife habitat, or recreational opportunities, or the chance for solitude and spiritual repose. This is an issue deeply bound up with the future of human communities.

We can see this in the rising concern among many communities. As the recent controversies over logging in the Woodfin and Asheville watersheds in North Carolina have demonstrated, for example, folks are rightly concerned about development in the critical areas that supply clean water for their communities. National forests supply clean water to millions of Americans and thousands of communities across the country. More than 60 percent of the clean water in this country has its headwaters in our national forests, many of these areas in the same backcountry areas at risk from the weakening of roadless area protection proposed by the administration in Washington. A diverse coalition of political voices has joined to say that we need to protect our watersheds from logging, and our roadless areas in our national forests from any efforts to weaken the protections already extended to them.

And the need for clean water is one thing we can all agree on. As the administration prepares to roll out yet another attempt to weaken protections for and allow logging in our roadless wild forest areas in our national forests, state governors have the opportunity to join Govs. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Mike Easley of North Carolina, and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee in their support for protecting this critical resource for all Americans, not just some vested interests with a financial stake in opening up these areas.

What we have learned over and over again is that everyone has a stake when it comes to protecting our air, water, and natural places. The values we are talking about - fairness, responsibility, health and safety - are universal. And many of the solutions to our environmental challenges are well within reach, if we work together.

"When we try to pick out anything by itself," John Muir famously said, "we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." That's truer today than ever.
At best, the drilling will yield about six months worth of oil. At worst, an entire ecosystem will be destroyed.

Kurt Vonnegut said a few weeks ago on "Real Time" that, with Katrina, Rita, and now Hurricane Wilma churning, nature is trying to make man extinct. I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration to say the least, but who knows based on nonsense like this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Dougie In Doo Doo

Fascinating to watch the Repug "old boy" network functioning, isn't it?

Forrester contracts tied to entities that aided his candidacy

A Burlco agency for which he has done work and a man who brokered the contracts are linked to GOP powers.

By Tom Turcol

Inquirer Staff Writer

While running for governor, New Jersey Republican Douglas Forrester has received $3.4 million in business from a Burlington County agency tied to the GOP machine that helped make him the party's gubernatorial candidate.

Moreover, the government contracts awarded to Forrester's company were brokered through the son of a powerful South Jersey Republican, State Sen. William L. Gormley, who also played a key role in Forrester's nomination.

Forrester's company, BeneCard Services Inc., was chosen by the Burlington County Special Services School District to manage its prescription-benefits program in 2004 and again in 2005. Since 2003, Forrester has contributed nearly $60,000 to county Republican coffers.

The school district selected BeneCard even though other companies offered lower costs for each year, and it renewed the contract this summer despite a 37 percent price increase by BeneCard.

Forrester did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman, Pete McDonough, said that cost was not the only consideration in insurance-related contracts.

Forrester has amassed most of his personal fortune through insurance-related contracts his two companies have with more than 100 municipalities, school systems and other public agencies in New Jersey.

Forrester estimates that his two companies have combined annual revenues of $200 million, and he has already spent more than $20 million of his own money on the campaign.

During the contest, Forrester has said that his companies' government contracts were not influenced by politics but based on price proposals that were lower than its competitors'.

But key political players and connections surround Forrester's lucrative arrangement in Burlington County, and rival health-benefits companies offered lower costs.

The Burlington school contracts were brokered by Sean Gormley, whose father, William Gormley of Atlantic County, is one of New Jersey's most influential Republicans. Sean Gormley receives a 5 percent commission from the transaction, according to district records.

The district's school board is controlled by the Burlington County GOP, whose longtime leader, Glenn Paulsen, is among the small group of Republican powers influential in choosing statewide candidates. That group includes Gormley.

Paulsen and Gormley played key roles in helping Forrester become the party's candidate for governor.

Gormley said he was unaware of his son's role in the Forrester contracts and that it did not affect his political decisions.

"It's my son's business, not mine," Gormley said. Paulsen was unavailable for comment.

A main theme of Forrester's campaign is what he says is opponent Jon S. Corzine's cozy relationship with the Democratic Party's leading regional bosses. But Forrester's business practices have shadowed his campaign, with Corzine accusing him of profiting from government contracts.

In addition, the state is investigating whether Forrester's contributions to his and other Republicans' campaigns violated a state law. The law bars such donations by majority owners of insurance companies and other state-regulated industries doing business in New Jersey.

In an interview in August, Forrester said that about 80 percent of his business is through contracts with the public sector to provide insurance or manage prescription plans for tens of thousands of public employees in the state. The contracts do not require competitive bidding, but the agencies often solicit competing proposals.

Forrester said there was nothing inappropriate in continuing to do business with taxpayer-funded clients while seeking the governorship. He said he would sever his ties with his companies if elected.

The Burlington County Special Services School District is part of a network of public agencies connected to the county Republican Party. Its members are appointed by the county freeholders, a main cog of the Burlington GOP apparatus.

Until he stepped down last year, Paulsen had been the chairman of the county GOP for 15 years. Despite relinquishing the title, Paulsen is still regarded as the dominant GOP figure in the county and a major player in state Republican politics.

According to county records, Forrester's company began negotiations for the school district's contract in April 2004 in a series of correspondence with Sean Gormley, the district's designated "health benefits broker." Gormley is president of Innovative Risk Solutions of Egg Harbor Township.

BeneCard was awarded a one-year contract on July 1, 2004. Its proposal came in at $57,237 more than one submitted by Oxford Health Plans Inc., county records show.

BeneCard's contract, again with Gormley acting as the broker, was renewed July 1 of this year. Three companies submitted lower-price proposals. Garden State Pharmaceutical, for one, came in at $74,397 less than BeneCard; Catalyst's proposal was $66,703 lower, according to those records.

In addition, BeneCard was chosen a second time despite proposing a 37 percent price increase, according to correspondence from a BeneCard director to Sean Gormley.

Sean Gormley did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

McDonough, Forrester's spokesman, said that while other companies offered lower costs than BeneCard, they may not have offered equivalent services. "That's why these things are not bid," McDonough said. "Each vendor offers something slightly different."

Neither Sean Gormley nor officials at the Burlington County Special Services District would discuss terms of the contracts.

At the time the contracts were negotiated, Forrester was courting both Paulsen and William Gormley in his bid to become the Republican nominee for governor. They were among a small group of key GOP officials who could have blocked - or seriously undermined - Forrester's nomination in June.

Paulsen and Gormley were among those asked to join a movement in late 2004 and early 2005 to draft Republican U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie into the race. Christie's candidacy, GOP officials believe, would have seriously hurt Forrester's chances to win the primary.

Christie, who would have had to resign as U.S. attorney to become a candidate, chose not to run. Christie's allies said that decision was made, in part, because Paulsen, Gormley and one or two others declined to publicly commit to Christie.

Both the Atlantic and Burlington GOP supported Forrester against the six other candidates who entered the GOP primary.

Gormley said Friday he would have backed Christie if he had entered the race. He added, "I told people [in the draft effort] that if he announced I would publicly support him."
The script seems to be that Forrester is the deep-pockets businessman and Corzine is "the people's liberal, activist candidate." That's too simple to be true, I know, but our MSM cousins have never shied away from simplicity, have they?

Fred Has No "Cred"

More local PA politics closer to home...

Steve Santarsiero is a Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, PA supervisor, and he was elected as a Democrat to the board two years ago as a Democrat, and believe me when I tell you that that is RARE for this area. Steve ran about as smart a campaign as he could and he had some big "wedge" issues on his side to get a big Democratic vote and enough of a Republican vote to defeat incumbent supervisor Wes Hackman.

Steve wrote a great column today supporting fellow Democrats Ron Smith and Greg Caiola for Lower Makefield Township supervisors, but because of some really awful problems with "," I can't link to his column (the site has problems generally). I will try to find the link again soon.

Related to this, I reproduced a letter to the Courier Times at this site from Matthew Bulger a short time ago in which he took aim at Fred Allan, who is running for supervisor as a Repug (along with Dobby Dobson, who used a campaign contribution for some redesign work on his shore home according to Gary Cruzan, another independent supervisor candidate). Dobson and Allan's huge, obnoxious blue billboards are back once more on Edgewood Rd. to pollute the landscape after they were removed following the primary last May.

Well, Allan wrote a column today in the Courier Times as a response to Bulger (who is Ron and Greg's campaign treasurer), and if you can take Allan at his word (and as far as I'm concerned, you can't), he was the parks and recreation king of Lower Makefield Township. He planned, signed off, and moved for one type of resolution or another in these areas, serving as a liaison here, proposed an ad hoc committee there, etc. All of this is commendable if true, though I know he's also tried to float rumors that Ron and Greg are going to have the large open tract at the Patterson farm at 332 and Mirror Lake zoned for commercial development, which is a lie (each side says the other will do it, to be fair, though).

(I got a kick out of Allan noting that he "oversaw the building of the girls' snack bar/restroom facilities so our young ladies have a place to go and do something positive." In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "what a maroon!" I'm sure our "young ladies" will remember that on Election Day, Fred.)

However, I should point out something about Allan. During the primary last year when Dobson and Allan defeated incumbent Lower Makefield supervisor Frank Fazzalore, Allan had a flyer circulated which in effect stated that he had worked closely with Jim McCaffrey of McCaffrey's Supermarket to support all manner of township development. This was a lie. Frank Fazzalore did much more than Allan ever will or could do with Jim McCaffrey in this regard, and Allan won in part by totally undercutting Fazzalore.

(Ordinarily, I don't care much about what Repugs do to each other, but Mr. Fazzalore is a fine man to whom this township owes a debt, which is a lot more than ever could be said for Allan.)

This is typical Repug garbage, though there is a very real possibility that this may play in an area which is heavily Republican as this one is. The best way we can make sure it doesn't (to any Lower Makefield voters who may be reading this) is to vote for Ron Smith and Greg Caiola on November 8th.

Who Elected You, Madame Secretary?

What would the day be like unless the glowering countenance of Condoleezza Rice graced the front page of my newspaper (or my CNN homepage)? At least, as I watch her fixed, determined glare, daring some pissant Congressperson to question her full and unmitigated authority, I know that life as I know it will continue to exist (and I’ll leave it up to the philosophers and the people in crisis intervention to wonder if that is a good thing or not).

(I guess things didn’t go well with that lesbian pianist that interviewer was trying to hook her up with, by the way. Oh well, que sera sera.)

See lady, here’s the deal (and I know this is a news flash); our founding fathers, way back in, oh, the late 1700s, created this little document called THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, which outlines our system of government with a lot of parallels to Great Britain and its separation of powers. The President has to go to Congress to ask for a declaration of war (and yes, I know that presidents have been playing around with that since LBJ and possibly before), and when it is granted, the President and/or his designate (in this case, you) are required to report back to Congress from time to time and give them STRAIGHT ANSWERS in the matter of how the war is going.

When someone asks you if our people are going to be in that God-forsaken hell hole otherwise known as Iraq for possibly ten more years (oh Lord), the answer isn’t supposed to me that it’s not appropriate for you to answer that, or words to that effect. That person is asking you that because some of his or her constituents have sons or daughters stationed over there and it might provide a small measure of comfort to let them know that you and your boss HAVE THE FIRST CLUE ABOUT WHAT THE HELL IT IS THAT YOU’RE DOING! YOU MIGHT ALSO BOTHER TO EXPLAIN TO THIS PERSON WHY DONALD RUMSFELD STILL HAS A JOB AS IEDS CONTINUE TO KILL AND MAIM OUR TROOPS WHO AREN’T PROPERLY ARMORED!

Update 10/25: It finally happened - Kos is all over it with a couple of great posts. May Dubya and his sorry ass rot in hell.


(I’m sorry for the shouting, but sometimes this stuff is particularly hard to take.)

So logically, since you have no idea of how long it will take to complete “the mission” (funny, but didn’t Dubya say over two years ago that the mission was accomplished? You know, he said that on the deck of that carrier wearing his flight suit while the ship was turned around the other way so nobody could see the coast of California in the background), it follows then that you have no idea of when our people will start to come home for good, do you?

Well, Dr. Rice, since straight answers are apparently too much to expect, I did some digging and came up with this (in the matter of how “battle ready” the Iraqi battalions really are).

You also engaged in some typical Bushco “saber rattling” regarding Iran and Syria (funny how cavalier your crowd is when it comes to everybody else’s lives except your own). Well, I don’t like those countries either, but guess what? The people who run them aren’t stupid.

This sentence from the next-to-last paragraph in the USA Today story struck a particularly propagandistic tone with me, by the way.

Saturday's vote (for the Iraqi constitution) was a political milestone on Iraq's path to forming a legitimate democratic government. Efforts by skeptical Sunni Arabs to defeat the charter appear to have failed, but the Bush administration has embraced their unexpectedly large turnout at the polls as a sign democracy is taking root.
I would look warily upon it as a sign that the Sunnis are going to resort to more violence because they continue to feel “frozen out” of this entire process, with so many voting "no" even though it will apparently pass anyway (though I have to admit that I have little sympathy for the Sunnis since they so readily engage in violence to begin with).

(Funny how Bushco knows so much about the Iraqi constitution apparently but so little about their own, isn't it?)

Bill Maher has said on “Real Time” to individuals like Richard Perle and the other full-blown neo cons that he will give them credit if somehow all of this has a positive outcome and democracy really does develop in Iraq. Even if that miraculously happens, I will never do that because of the utter “throne of lies” upon which this entire misadventure was concocted.

Facts Are Inconvenient, Aren't They?

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a regular feature on its editorial page most Wednesdays called "Blog Cabin" (oh, how clever) in which they highlight particular blog entries on certain topics. Aside from fitting in the correct number of characters in the prescribed column space, I have no idea of what their criteria is for including a blog entry on the page. They've featured posts from Jack and Lisa at Ruminate This on occasion, so I can see that at least some degree of editorial judgment is involved in their decisions (and they usually feature two posts at a time).

Well anyway, today's topic has to do with the outing of Valerie Plame, but for some reason, they didn't feature anything from Atrios, which is ridiculous because he has covered it so thoroughly, and also because he's based in this area. One of the posts they featured was from something called The Florida Masochist, in an attempt to appease "Wingnuttia" I guess, and it is one of the most patently idiotic pieces of tripe that purports to deal with the Plame matter that I have ever read.

I would suggest to Philadelphia's "newspaper of record" that they bother to do their homework a little more thoroughly next time and not highlight an intellectually lazy individual who apparently has no desire to understand his subject matter.

Update 10/19: I'm going to show more fairness to this person than he deserves and publish the link to the Inquirer here (you have to register).

Update 10/20: James Moore from The Huffington Post provides the finest summary of this that I have seen to date. I consider this to be required reading for every citizen of this country, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Real Time" Update

The show began with a commercial parody of Bush-Cheney as if they were an insurance company of sorts (in a way, that’s what they’re supposed to be, I guess, but we know how poor a job they’ve done) with the soft-focus, warm-sounding and comforting voice stating, “We make a lot of the problems you have...bigger.” It was hard for me to laugh because I was going “uh huh, uh huh,” over and over.

After the introductory applause for Bill Maher died down, he asked if that was a pity ovation because he missed out as the new James Bond. Commenting on the “Million More” march (which apparently was only a few thousand, actually), Maher said, “Bush noticed what was supposed to be a million black men a block down from the White House. And he thought Cindy Sheehan was scary (ba-dump).” Commenting on Bush’s 2 percent approval rating among African Americans (that number is so embarrassing that they should’ve even bother to report it, and if someone is curious, the answer should be “just don’t ask”), Maher said that number “was an approval rating somewhere between Mark Fuhrman and sickle cell anemia.”

Joking about the recent staged interview Bush had last week with more hand-picked soldiers in Iraq (including this Murphy guy, who seems to show up everywhere), Maher reiterated that all of the soldiers were told to read their lines from the script (amazing how dumb Bushco thinks we are). Maher said, “That’s typical for the Bush military. No gays, but lots of choreography.” Finally, on New Orleans vowing to hold Mardi Gras again next year, Maher said, “They just invented a drink called the FEMA. It hits you about a week later.”

The first guest Maher interviewed via satellite was former South Carolina senator John Edwards (actually, if you’re familiar with this site, then chances are you’re familiar with him also, and I would add that it was good to see him again). Maher asked him if he missed Washington, and Edwards emphatically said no, since he’s so busy working at the Poverty Center at Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina. Maher asked if it isn’t true that, despite highlighting the poverty in this country as a result of Katrina, if it wasn’t true that people would forget a month later, and Edwards said that we have to keep our focus because this is the first time in forty years that we’re paying attention to the moral issue of poverty. Edwards also said that the Democrats “need to reclaim the moral high ground and be about big issues” (amen, brother). Maher said we should focus on the environment in the next election (a drum he has been beating throughout the new season especially because of Katrina, which I think is commendable), and Edwards agreed, saying that the environment is tied to national security and poverty issues also.

When Maher pointed out that the money in this country “goes to tax cuts for the rich,” he then asked if the Democrats are part of the solution (amazing that that question has to be asked…I hope that’s a message to The Roberts 22, but I’m not holding my breath), and Edwards again emphatically said that the country “needs independent leaders with a big vision,” saying “let’s forget about parties.” I found that to be a bit of a curious answer, because I’ll be honest with you – I want to see Edwards run as a Democrat for the White House in ’08 (yeah, I know…big news flash, huh?). However, if he runs as an independent, I think that is going to REALLY screw things up. I personally think he would be a great candidate. Of course, the punditocracy has anointed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate already, and though I think she could do a great job also, too many people in this country despise her, though that isn’t entirely her fault. We’ll just have to wait and see, of course.

Maher next interviewed Richard Pennington, the former police chief of New Orleans, regarding the beating of Robert Davis in the French Quarter. I admired Chief Pennington for his remarks about not tolerating police corruption and his forthright answers, saying that police should either be fired or charged criminally if they engage in this type of behavior. Pennington also said that he got rid of a third of the New Orleans police force after he became police chief, and he also said that some cops in New Orleans should get psychological tests. Maher said, “I think cops instill more fear at times,” and also they “arrive with the army” and want “super duper ass kissing,” and Pennington reluctantly agreed, though he properly defended the majority of officers who do their jobs.

This led into the panel discussion with former Georgia senator Max Cleland (I absolutely have to comment on that a bit more, and I will), Vanity Fair magazine writer/editor Tina Brown, and comedian Larry Miller. Cleland pointed out that “New Orleans has a real challenge, since half of the police department evaporated while everyone went on a rampage, there were corpses in a warehouse,” and, to further quote him, “a massive cover up requiring an independent investigation from the Louisiana district attorney.” Larry Miller (who was funny throughout the show, even when a couple of his jokes bombed), called New Orleans “the Robert Mitchum of cities” because of its culture of decadence (a bit of an exaggeration, but still a good line), adding that “you don’t go there if you’re looking for an example of good, honest government.” Miller went on to communicate a funny story about how Mike Wallace interviewed former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards on “60 Minutes,” once, and Wallace was flabbergasted (and how often does THAT happen?) over Edwards’ openness about the corruption in his state.

Concerning Iraq, Maher joked that “the vote on the Constitution just started, and we already have preliminary reports of people being blown up at the polls” (ouch). Miller said that, “maybe Democracy will start in Iraq, and then again, maybe they’ll be serving Pepsi at the next Hell’s Angels convention.” Maher said that he thought, since we’ve lost almost 2,000 lives in Iraq, that maybe we should have more of a say in who runs the country, and Tina Brown, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, said Chalabi should be in charge because “at least he wears a suit and tie and not a black Ninja uniform,” meaning that he has the veneer (and an extremely thin one at that) of respectability that we look for in a head of state. Brown made some timely remarks throughout the show; I didn’t know much about her going in, but she was pretty astute and funny at times also (what a pleasure it was to watch the show without a token Repug partisan baiting the other panelists, though I’ll admit that George Carlin did that also to James Glassman a few weeks ago).

Regarding Iraq, Cleland, picking up on Brown’s remark about Chalabi, said, “Isn’t that the point, that we’re always trying to project what we want in that country? It’s ridiculous. We should have had a strategy to win when we went in, but we took out the Iraqi security forces. Since there was no WMD, no al Qaeda link, and no uranium from Niger, get our troops out now,” and the audience cheered enthusiastically.

As I watched Cleland, I wondered why the hell he wasn’t still in the U.S. Senate and how dumb the people in Georgia were who voted him out in favor of Saxby Chambliss, especially since Chambliss, in the 2002 election, ran that repugnant ad alleging that Cleland, who of course is a disabled and decorated Vietnam veteran, aided al Qaeda. The automatic response should have been to defend Cleland and send Chambliss packing, but the opposite happened (for a somewhat imperfect example of voters rallying to a Democrat, look at what happened during the last mayoral election between John Street and Sam Katz in Philadelphia when the news of the F.B.I. probe was leaked in the final weeks of the election. The voters rallied around Street the way they should have rallied around Cleland…and don’t worry, I’m not trying to ignore the fact that there was a racial element in that outcome.)

Inevitably, the discussion turned to Harriet Miers, and Maher said, “By the way, did I mention that Miers is religious? Somebody saw her face in a grilled cheese sandwich” (Maher obviously did not take to heart the upbraiding he received from Andrew Sullivan and Ben Affleck about people of faith the week before, but that’s OK…it’s his show, after all). Maher also mentioned that, on “The West Wing,” Alan Alda plays a conservative Senator who tells the wingnut “evangelical” right to, in essence, “go to hell,” and Maher wondered rhetorically why nobody does that for real in this country. In response to the news that Miers “went to the second-best law school in Texas,” Larry Miller said “that was like saying you’re the third tallest guy in Japan,” which prompted a bit of a groan from the audience (though Miller would have had to go a long way to match the groans that Ann Coulter received the week before). Tina Brown made an important point, I thought, when she wondered why other women hadn’t rallied to Miers’ cause. Maher commented that Bush said, “I know what she’s thinking,” and he wondered why women wouldn’t find that offensive, and Brown pointed out that they would. Larry Miller pointed out that “in 20 years, Miers has changed her views about 180 degrees,” and Brown thought it was humorous that Miers' “conversion” took place, apparently, in “the office.”

Maher then interviewed Tom Wolfe concerning his new book “Charlotte Simmons,” which apparently is about college life these days, and Maher asked Wolfe what he thought was different, at which point Wolfe proceeded to go into this incredibly laborious account of how the “baseball” dating metaphor has changed since he was in school, saying (and I’ll try to be careful with this) that, in his day, first base was French kissing (now apparently referred to as “tonsil hockey”), second base was groping, third base was oral sex, and home plate was “going all the way.” Now, because of something he referred to as “the seven-minute seduction” (have to re-enroll to check this out:- ), “first base is groping, second base is oral sex, third base is going all the way, and home plate was the introduction.” Maher, in mock indignation, shook his head and said, “These kids don’t know the value of a good blowjob.” When he told Wolfe that Bush was apparently reading the book based on what he heard from some tabloid (yeah, right), Wolfe said that he’d heard that also, and he appreciated it. “It apparently is taking him awhile to read it, and that’s the best thing he can do for the country.”

The next topic was the possible bird flu pandemic and the threat that would be posed if it mutated, and this led into a funny parody of Faux TV News scare headlines. Maher said, “it’s a matter of what they pick for the P.R. machine, either this or Iraq or something else,” and Cleland said that the “die was cast” regarding Iraq after Cheney and Wolfowitz got into the White House (I think he’s right, and I believe Cleland was referring to the “Project For The New American Century” document that Wolfowitz wrote). Tina Brown said, “they’re all waiting for ‘The Rapture’ in the crouched position,” and Maher immediately asked, “Is that second or third base?” Cleland said this about the so-called evangelicals; “My grandfather said, ‘If someone prays extra loud, go home and lock the smoke house door’.” Finally, they discussed the woman who was reported to have given birth to her eighteenth (?) child, and Tina Brown said, “I want to know about the husband. I saw a picture of him, and he looks like he’s on Xanax,” and Miller replied, “Wouldn’t you?” In response, Cleland recalled Groucho Marx interviewing a woman with eight children on “You Bet Your Life,” and when Groucho asked why she had so many children, she said “I like kids.” Groucho replied, “I like my cigar too, but I take it out once in awhile.”

I’m just going to link to New Rules, because it was too funny to transcribe here (especially the joke about Dubya and The Village People).

Next week’s panelists will include Tucker Carlson, so I’m sure my dander will be worked up quite thoroughly. Spike Lee also is supposed to be on the panel, so there should be fireworks.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Peace In Our Time?

In the post below about the vote on the Iraqi constitution, I was going to draw a parallel between that document which papered over the Iraqi military quagmire and the Munich pact that Neville Chamberlain waved in the air after he and Hitler signed it on September 29, 1938.

The pact that Chamberlain signed with Hitler ended up papering over the Nazi's quest for world domination, and though the insurgents carrying out their cowardly acts of terrorism in Iraq do not seek anything of that scope (though a cataclysmic, world-engulfing war between their version of Islam and "the infidels" would suit them just fine), the voting for the Iraqi constitution does provide a bit of a diversion for them to carry out and possible escalate their acts of barbarism. In other words, the voting on that document isn't going to ultimately settle a thing.

Getting back to Chamberlain, though...after reading this from Sheila Samples at The Smirking Chimp (needs a bit of a copy edit, but her points are otherwise excellent), I decided to recall this bit of history that, I believe, parallels this moment. Dubya absurdly fancies himself as a figure a la Winston Churchill, but it’s more appropriate as far as I’m concerned to draw a parallel with “Winnie’s” predecessor (Chamberlain did some things right as I recall from reading about him, but he was terribly wrong for the ages on this one).

Update: I definitely didn't have the comedy team of Chavez and Mugabe in mind when I wrote what I said above, by the way (I guess these two guys will be opening soon for Don Rickles at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City?).

A Bloody Piece Of Paper

Here is this morning’s propaganda from the AP (courtesy of the Bucks County Courier Times):

Iraq’s landmark constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday after initial results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at the polls. The apparent acceptance was a major step in the attempt to establish a democratic government that could lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
I read those two sentences over a couple of times and found myself a bit unnerved by the supposition and obfuscation in the lead paragraph of what is supposed to be a “hard news” story, and a critically important one at that.

Sunni Arabs did indeed try to “veto it at the polls” (interesting that the word “veto” is used here, which is commonly associated with an act of Congress and not an actual vote by constituents…yes, I know I’m splitting hairs, but the AP lead is an example of more “word games” to make this process look more legitimate than it actually is). Large numbers of Sunnis voted against the constitution because their religious and political leaders told them to do so (as stated in a New York Times article accessible from this link).

You can access Part 1 and Part 2 of these great posts by Armando at The Daily Kos that, I think, analyze this situation very well. Only a naïve simpleton (paging Dubya) would think that the passage of this constitution despite an overwhelming Sunni dissent will lessen the violence in that deteriorating country.

I also think this passage in the New York Times article is interesting:

“…bringing more Sunni Arabs into the political process certainly does not mean they will accept the new power structure. Those Sunni Arabs who walked along largely empty streets on Saturday to polling centers appeared, by early and unscientific counts, to widely favor a rejection of the constitution. Many articulated the most common Sunni complaint about the constitution - that it promoted a system of federalism in which the central government would cede significant powers to the regions, possibly allowing oil-rich Shiite and Kurdish areas of Iraq to become virtually separate entities.”
“Virtually separate entities,” huh? Well, the Kurds have wanted their own country throughout, and this might just be another step in that process. And the Shiites might end up with the same arrangement, despite all of our efforts to curry their favor (and they’ll of course have the oil, which all of this is ultimately about anyway).

Our dear MSM cousins continue to spoon feed us this fantasy that, somehow, this is a milestone into the establishment of an Iraqi democracy, when it fact it is another step in the process of the splinterization (word?) of that entire area into separate states. And without a strong hand of one type or another to keep everyone in line (and let’s face it; Saddam Hussein – mean, nasty, murderous SOB that he was – was a strong hand), civil war is inevitable.

And by the way, here and here are links to more reasons why we should end this fiasco now and bring our people home (and we can honor those who have already fallen and their great sacrifice by FINALLY, FINALLY holding our leaders accountable!).